Leading up to the NFL Draft, current and former Steelers' players will be sharing their Draft Day Memories, from the time they went to the NFL Scouting Combine, through the moment they were drafted. In this installment, former linebacker Ryan Shazier shared his story.
"Going to the combine was always a dream of mine as a kid. You always watched it growing up and saw everyone display their talents. Getting an invite to the combine meant you were one of the best players out there in college that year, heading to the NFL. It was always a dream of mine as I watched it growing up.
"There is a lot going on at the combine. You don't get a lot of time to yourself. You are up super early in the morning. You are having a lot of meetings with teams and people. You also have to perform in the midst of a lot of stress. It is one of those things that it's a once in a lifetime thing. Once you do it, you don't have to do it again.
"I definitely considered it a job interview. Your play means a lot, but your character means a lot too. I wanted to show my best at the combine, but the teams I talked to I wanted them to see my character, know what my values are, see the type of person I am. I knew that that was important also. I definitely treated it as a job interview.
"I had about 20 meetings with teams at the combine. It was crazy. It is like an interrogation room. They are trying to figure out your body language while you are trying to be as cool, calm and collected as possible. If you get too nervous, you might say the wrong thing, or say something wrong. I remember one draft meeting I had with the Jaguars. I love football, I work hard, I practice hard, but I don't like practice. That came out wrong, because everyone knows I love football. So, it's one of those things where you can so easily say the wrong thing.
"My pro day I felt more comfortable. You don't have as many meetings there. You might have one or two. I know I had one with (Coach) Jerry Olsavsky. It's more you are on your own turf, where you have practiced your entire career and you are really comfortable. A pro day is a day that allows people to be comfortable and actually enjoy being an athlete that is getting ready to go to the NFL. I knew that as a player the combine meant more because it shows you under stress, in a situation you were never in before.
"I made a pre-draft visit to the Steelers. I was excited to come there and visit. I had a meeting with Coach (Keith) Butler. He told me I am going to be honest with you Ryan, I love how you play, but I don't know why you are here. We already have linebackers and I think we have some other positions that are more important. I didn't think I was going to end up with the Steelers because he said that. I knew I was one of the better players in the draft. Every kid feels like they are the best, and that is how I felt. But I am a realist too. I knew other positions would go before me. When I was getting drafted linebackers weren't going in the Top 10.
"I went to the draft in New York. I had an outfit picked out, looking back I probably would have picked a different one. But I wore some really tight shoes. They were so tight they were hurting my feet. The first part of the draft I was only wearing socks. When the 14th pick came up, I was putting my shoes back on, tying them, and that is when the Steelers called.
"I was surprised when the Steelers called because of what Coach Butler said. I knew they had an interest in me because they brought me there. It was exciting. I had a lot of respect for Coach (Mike) Tomlin as a successful African American coach. Also going to an organization like the Steelers, I knew we would always be in the mix. And to have Dick LeBeau there, another Buckeye. It was a team I was excited to go to.
"Being in New York for the draft was a pretty cool experience. You were with a bunch of guys that were the best in the world. If you got invited to that room, you were projected to go in the first two rounds, one of the top 64 in the country at the time. To be in that atmosphere, with them and their families, everyone excited about what is next. It was an amazing moment.
"It was wild. You are there with your family, you want to look nice, and they have a lot of things they have you doing. There are a lot of things even before the draft starts, they have you doing. You get pulled in a lot of directions. It was my first time in New York, and I was excited to be there for myself and my family. I was there with guys who might be in the Hall of Fame some day and we were able to all enjoy the moment.
"My family and I enjoyed every moment of it. I was so happy to be drafted in the first round. Being there, experiencing it with my family, is something I dreamt about since I started playing football when I was five years old. I worked my tail off for the dream and to be asked to go to the combine, go to the draft, and to be selected by the best franchise in the NFL, it was something I was so happy about.
"After the draft I did watch the replay of that night once or twice. I was happy in the moment, but it was great to see everything I missed."